The opening is smooth, the trio of solo voices anchored by a slowly moving bass line, and key words picked out with melismas. At ‘It is God’ the solo bass (originally John Gostling) takes on the role of the strong warrior, accompanied by a determined, two-note repeated bass figuration: the two upper voices question in thirds ‘Who is God?’, and are answered again by the bass. A longer section of florid semi-recitative for the bass follows, the enemies graphically thrown down the musical scale, and then smitten ‘that they shall not be able to stand’: defeated, they fall to the furthest extremes of the voice. The two upper voices (much in the style of the Te Deum and Jubilate, first performed just ten days later) give thanks in fluid style, their alleluias answered and taken up by the full choir. Once again the bass sings of the destruction of his enemies, beating them ‘as small as the dust’ and weaving intricate melismas on ‘turn’, ‘destroy’ and ‘cast’, his range of over two octaves being used to superb dramatic effect.
The duet ‘They shall cry’ finds Purcell at his most appealingly mournful, full of angular intervals and tortured suspensions, before a running bass line returns to a more positive sentiment, that ‘The Lord liveth’. The two upper voices are equally convinced at ‘Great prosperity giveth he’, and the bass is given yet another fine piece of pictorialisation, set high in his voice ‘above mine adversaries’. The theme at ‘Great prosperity’ is extended and developed, this time for all three voices, the word ‘evermore’ suitably illustrated with extremely long phrases, and the anthem ends with ringing Alleluias.
from notes by Robert King ©
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